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Spotlight: 1921 In Mount Dora

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Get a room.

No, seriously. If you go to 1921 by Norman Van Aken — and let me be clear: you should — and it means driving the 40-plus minutes from the Orlando area to the Mount Dora restaurant, do yourself a favor and spend the night. Book a room at a hotel, inn or bed and breakfast.

That way you can spend the leisurely pace a meal here demands without the worry of the drive ahead.

This highly anticipated restaurant from one of Florida’s most celebrated chefs is, to be a bit trite, a feast for the senses. The restaurant occupies an old house, built circa 1921, across the street from the Modernism Museum in the quaint downtown. In partnership with the museum, the restaurant is enhanced with works of art that might otherwise be packed away in a warehouse. So the walls are covered with paintings and sculptures. Light fixtures and chandeliers are expressive bursts of colors, and even the very chair you sit on and table you eat at may be a museum piece.

The menu, executed by Chef de Cuisine Camilo Velasco, is a thoughtful blend of traditional and modern, just like the museum.

Ceviche featured wild Florida cobia in passion fruit juices with cubes of “torched” sweet potatoes.

Spiny Lobster & Rock Shrimp Dumplings featured shellfish that used to reside in Titusville, now found in a dashi stock flavored with country ham.

The fish course featured Barrelfish, a so-called “trash fish” usually hauled in by commercial fishers as bycatch. In the right hands, it can be as flavorful as grouper. Here it was presented over a corn purée from just down the road in Zellwood, with out-of-the-shell mussel nubbins, bits of chorizo, and a black sauce fashioned from cuttlefish ink.

Pan-roasted Duck Breast looked almost like a piece of rare steak. But the delicate flavor was unmistakable. It was served with duck confit, sweet potato and mole poblano, with trumpet mushrooms and a jus made of ancho and guava.

I noticed that many of the guests, especially the women, were taking advantage of having a restaurant to dress up for. Probably locals. Lucky devils.

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